[To recap so far. A 32-year-old self-conscious and slightly socially awkward guy wants to do something new in his life. He looks back at childhood hobbies and decides on drama due to an early introduction to Shakespeare. However he is haunted by the ghosts of his GCSE drama exam and wants to put these ghosts to rest. He finds a theatre group that does Shakespeare and is told about upcoming auditions. He goes to the auditions and is in awe of the talent around him. He leaves the audition with low expectations only to find a week later he has a part. This is followed by a few months of rehearsals and finally the time has come for the first performance.] I will refer to people by their character name.
We are going to be performing 4 performances of A Midsummer Nights Dream outside in the park. They will be Thursday to Sunday with the Sunday performance being a matinée. We were also to do a performance the following week on a Wednesday at a local school. All we need is for the weather to be good and the audiences to turn up.
[1st Performance – Thursday]
I wake up on Thursday and look out of my window to a grey sky. It’s a cold and damp and I pray that things improve so we don’t have to cancel the performance. I have been looking forward to this day for months and I have people I know coming to see the show each performance and feel bad if they have to sit in the cold to watch. The weather didn’t really improve that much during the day. I had a relaxing day as I was off work and then it was time for me to head off to the park to help set up the set and get into costume for the first show.
I got to the park and went to the bandstand where the performance was to take place. Some other were already there helping putting up the set and some gazebos for the audience and for the cast for when we were not on stage. Over the next few days I got a lot of practice of putting up those gazebos. Once it was set up I was conscious of the time and getting ready. We were using the Education Centre in the park to get ready and when I went in I found it was full of army guys, fairies and 1940’s housewives. We all got ready and then just waited. It was interesting to see how everyone dealt with the waiting including me. Some just went on their own and read through their lines, others just sat and talked, some were on the phones texting or updating Twitter or Facebook and some just paced up and down. I found I was a combination of the tweeting and pacing up and down. Come to think of it might be why one of the cast patted me on the shoulders maybe it was his way of stopping me from pacing up and down as it might have been annoying him slightly oops. Some of the cast had done some thank you cards and gifts for some of the cast members who they had been working closely with. I didn’t expect anything so was really surprised to get a little card from one of Team Mortal. I really appreciated it and wished I had brought my cards. I was waiting until final performance as I wasn’t sure what the protocol was with it all. Actors are a superstitious bunch. Anyway a look at the time and it was the final call and we headed off to perform.
I am in the very first scene and make my entrance along with others from Team Mortal from the entrance to the venue. So we are stood there waiting as the last few arrive. I remember peering through a gap in the bush spotting my friends who had come. The nerves were starting to kick in. I took my glasses off and it was all a little blurry but at least I wouldn’t be able to see the audience to closely so shouldn’t be put off. In the audience there were 50 from a local school who had come to see it which was quite nerve-wracking. Then it was our cue and we entered and started the show.
I walked down the path way and walked to the front of the bandstand to deliver my first lines. I could feel my legs shaking beneath me but I managed to deliver my lines and within minutes my first scene was over and I was backstage. Phew I could breath for a bit. I didn’t realise how close the audience would be. Some were practically on the stage with us. It was quite a good crowd in largely because of the 50 school children but still there were people there watching. From behind the bandstand I kept trying to spot my friends and gage their reactions to the show as well as watching the performance. It all seemed to be going ok.
As it is outdoors in a park you obviously get local wildlife and I don’t just mean the local youths. During rehearsals we had problems with the geese and midges but not the pigeons. The pigeons had been saving themselves for opening night. A lot of the play is set in the woods so we use the trees in the park as a backdrop. During the scene where the lovers all fall asleep and Oberon wakes Titania from her spell the pigeons started to get jiggy with it in the trees above the lovers. This was very distracting for the audience as they are trying to watch the play but getting frustrated with the pigeons in the tree. We [the cast]were all distracted as well as we were all in that area either on stage or just behind the trees and were concerned they would poo on us. Anyway it was time for me have my second scene and this went well. I could still feel my legs shaking a bit but not as much as before. Once again within minutes it was over with and we had to dash back to the bandstand for my final scene.
Luckily I didn’t have to do a costume change but some of the cast did. We only had one scene in-between our last scene and the next one so not much time. Before we knew it we were on. The scene started off well. This was the scene after the wedding and I have to go along with the Duke and Hippolyta and greet the wedding line. I am last to do so and it took a bit longer than in rehearsal and I wasn’t in my correct place then I realised it was my line. Because I wasn’t in the right place I had to alter the line slightly [sorry Shakespeare] and then tried to move into position. I was just trying to keep hold of the scene when there a camera flash went off in the direction I was looking at while trying to deliver my next line. I then lost it. I couldn’t think and felt the ground below me opening up. It felt like ages but I managed to pull something from my memory and sort of salvaged it. I had finished my lines and then moved to the side of the stage with the rest of Royal Court for the rest of scene. Then we went off stage while the very last scene took place. The cast members were congratulating themselves but I just wanted to cry. My worst fear had happened. I forgot my lines albeit briefly and I felt I had the others down. I expected someone to say something but no one did. Anyway it was time to do our bows and complete the first performance. We did our curtain call and then it was all over. We had done it. The audience seemed to enjoy it and we could all relax for a bit. Once we had got changed we then had to help take down the set. We were all talking about the performance and someone mentioned my slip up. I said “I know I’m sorry”, they replied “Don’t worry it happens to all of us”. I am sure this was true and did help make me feel a bit better. Once the set was down I got my stuff and say bye to the cast that were still there and went home. I got some nice comments from my friends who had been that night and I apologised for the line I messed up. They said they didn’t notice which is one thing. I was still down about messing my lines up but I decided if that’s the worst I was going to do then that was fine. After all it was the first time I have done anything like this so it wasn’t a bad effort after all. Right bring on performance 2.
[2nd Performance – Friday]
As a child I remember watching watch the TV adaption of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe in the late 1980’s and the scene where it rains and the children are all stuck inside the house and one says “it would rain wouldn’t it”. Well that was my reaction on Friday morning when I was greeted my torrential rain when I woke up. My second reaction was “oh no tonight is going to get called off”. I didn’t want any performance to be called off but tonight’s was important to me for a few reasons a)I wanted to do a performance without any mistakes like last night b)a work colleague and family were travelling to Darlington to see it and c) most importantly my parents were coming. All day I was checking the weather forecast and it did say it would improve for the time of the performance. I only hoped it wasn’t too wet on the ground.
It was time for me to head off again and no message to say it was called off so hopefully the show was going ahead. I just hope we have an audience. I get there and once again we have to set up the set and gazebos then dash off to get ready. The weather seemed to be holding out.
I got into costume and the nerves were there. It’s odd we all want people to come to see us in the show but when you actually know they are there and are there to support you then that is a big deal. We all head off to the bandstand and get ready to do it all over again. The audience is not as large tonight and there are a few late arrivals who had obviously been holding out till the last-minute. The audience are also sat in a different position tonight for some reason. It’s not a problem though.
The play starts and once again my first scene is over and I can relax a bit until later on. The audience seems to be really enjoying it which is great. My other scenes all go well and I feel I have put my demons from last night behind me. I am really loving this production and experience. We all get changed and before I leave I’m asked if I am free during the next day as it is the Community Carnival and we will be taking part. We are to go in costume. I had no other plans so thought why not. Wow this is another new experience for me.
When I got home my parents said how much they enjoyed the show and then my mum said “they really cast you well as you play stroppy so naturally.” I’m taking that as a compliment.
[Carnival – Saturday ]
The weather is great and I go along to the start of the carnival in my costume. Khaki green is a bit dull for a carnival though. Surely I should be having some tail feathers or sequins. Never mind. Some of the of the other cast member turn up and I get given the placard to carry. It is soon time for us to set off and we head off around the town with the rest of the cultural scene in Darlington. The crowds seem to enjoy it all and I am really enjoying the experience. It is a bit of fun and after all it’s not everyday you get to take part in a carnival. It doesn’t take too long for us to be back at the start and before we know it is all over. We have time to go home for a few hours before tonight’s performance.
[3rd Performance – Saturday]
The weather seems to be quite good for tonight’s performance and there seems to be a good vibe about tonight but that might just be the enthusiasm from the carnival still lingering about.
For tonight’s performance we have someone different playing Oberon it is our director from Team Mortal and we all know he will be great. The set seems to be getting put faster each day. By the end of the performances we will all be expert gazebo builders.
In the audience tonight I have a friend coming which is great as I didn’t expect anyone for this performance so this means I have someone coming to all 4 performances which is brilliant and a bit overwhelming if I’m totally honest.
The performance tonight just goes really well. Theres a really good feel. I think we are all relaxed into the roles and just enjoying it all now. The audience once again seemed to love the show. I managed to speak to my friend after the show who was quite surprised at my performance as they were surprised at my confidence and she hoped I wasn’t offended by that. I wasn’t I knew exactly what she meant. Doing this show has given me such a confidence boost and made me realise there’s more to me than I realise. After speaking to my friend is was time to me get changed and then help put the set away. Once this was done it was time to go home knowing that we just had the one main performance to go tomorrow.
[4th Performance:Last one in the park – Sunday]
Todays performance is a matinée performance so we should get a really good audience tonight especially as the weather is good today. I have mixed emotions for today. I’m a bit nervous as there is a large group of friends coming to this performance and I hope I don’t mess up and spoil it for them. Also I’m quite sad as it is the last performance today. I know we are doing a performance at a local school during the week but this is the last of the main shows.
I arrive at the park and find it is really busy as there is a Dog Show/Fair on and there are dogs of all sizes around. I once again help set the set and then go and get into costume. The performance goes well. Not quite as good as last night but still a good performance and once again the audience seemed to really enjoy it. It was also a sell out performance which is brilliant. An hour and a half later and it is all over. We pack away and look for ward to the after show party on the night.
[School production – Wednesday]
Although our performances in the park were over we still had one more show we were doing. We had been asked by a local school if we could put on a performance of the show there. Like all the top shows after a successful run it is time for the tour. OK this makes sound really grand but it’s what we were calling it.
On the Tuesday we went to see the venue and it was to be a lot different to what he had been using. However we had an idea of how it was going to be.
On the day of the performance the weather was brilliant which was good as we were once again doing an outdoor performance. We got the set up and even had proper changing rooms to get ready in.
The play was going well and the audience seemed to be enjoying it. So much so they were sat on the set. This did cause me a problem for one of my scenes. Theres a scene where I am out hunting with the Duke and Hippolyta and we discover the 4 lovers asleep. I am meant to say “My lord this is my daughter here asleep” however there were so many audience members on the set I couldn’t actually see her. This along with a new set, no glasses meant in my head I was panicking. I realised I had to do something as I was losing the scene so delivered my line hoping I would find her once I said it which I did. This really threw me and I then I have to run off to alert the huntsmen. As I did this I stumbled and fell over and my leg didn’t feel too good. I managed to carry on and then got back into position. I was trying to concentrate but at the same time I just wanted to throw up. I managed to get through the scene and the rest of the play and everything with leg seemed ok. I was a bit annoyed with myself that this last performance by me hadn’t been as good as others I had done but it didn’t spoil the overall experience for me.
Once everything was packed away it was time to say our farewells and I felt sad. I had enjoyed spending time with such great people and having fun and realised that it was all over. On the plus side I could go home and shave the moustache off straight away, which I did. Hopefully I will get a chance to do it again sometime the play that is not the moustache. If not I had a blast performing a Shakespeare play that first captured my imagination when I was just a small boy.
I can’t put into words how much I have enjoyed the last 5/6 months. It has simply been the best experience and that is down to all those involved in the show. The welcome everyone gave me meant a great deal and it has been a pleasure working with such talented people. I am still that socially awkward guy but hopefully less self-conscious and have put the ghosts of my G.C.S.E Drama to rest. This experience has boosted my confidence in bucket loads, improved my team work skills, taught me to think on my feet, challenged me, and allowed me to give something back to the local community. This is why the arts need investment and not cuts. I hope to do it all again someday soon as I don’t want to say goodbye to it all yet. In the meantime I want to say thank you to everyone who came to see the show and also the following:
JP, SB, FH, ZM, LVD, GC, AP, JC, SS, MMc, CK, TM, BI, ES, TB, CB, HD, JD, LT, GR, SH, FS, SH, LE, HH, BMC, CMC, PG, CW.